Video: The “Air Pod”

In scores of science fiction films from the 1950s through the 1970s, we would already be driving cars that ran on air … but somehow, they looked a lot cooler than the new vehicle from France called the Air Pod. This doesn’t hover or fly either, but instead is designed to putt around urban areas at a top speed of 49 mph (80 kph), with a maximum range between 93-125 miles before, er, reinflation. Give the inventor credit here for giving an honest accounting of emissions by noting that the electricity used to repressurize the air chamber has its own costs — something that electric vehicle backers usually avoid — but the emissions are still quite a bit lower than electricals or hybrids. And it has one other advantage as well, something CNN doesn’t mention in its report:

The other advantage? Batteries. Electricals and hybrids require large, expensive battery configurations that eventually need replacement and disposal, two big costs down the line that owners have to calculate when making a decision to purchase. There appears to be some limited electrical function in the Air Pod, but nothing a standard car battery (or less) couldn’t handle.

It has its disadvantages, too. There would have to be an urban infrastructure for pressurization stations, or something portable and light enough to handle the job while on the road. The Air Pod would be next to useless outside of the city, especially since its top speed makes it unsafe on highways needed to travel outside of the core metropolitan area in most cities, and its range would be dicey as well. There may also be questions about whether performance drops in relation to air pressure; does the last quarter of a tank, with its lower pressure, perform as well as a full tank? The lightweight design would make them deathtraps when dealing with regular autos in a city (and buses, which won’t be going away, either). Last, and least in its own way, this is a single-passenger car that is almost entirely unsuited for anyone with a family.

Still, if it’s cheap enough (CNN doesn’t mention the price), it might not be a bad option for the densest urban areas and singles who live there. Given the difficulty of getting more than one person in the Air Pod, though, they might be single for a long time after choosing this as a vehicle.